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Microsoft’s Project NEON leaks; brings transparency, animations, consistency

by Vishal Laul

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A few months ago – in 2016 – reports showed up, talking about a brand-new design language Microsoft was developing: Project NEON.

Project NEON is meant to bring consistency to the inconsistent world of Windows 10 – we talked about this when the first reports came out; today, MSPowerUser has managed to get their hands on Microsoft’s internal concepts for Project NEON; it’s exactly what we thought it would be.

It’s a minor update to the currently-used Modern Design Language 2; bringing smooth animations, and a bit of transparency with a hint of blur. It’s an evolution, rather than an overhaul – as we pretty much expected.

The Blur
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Microsoft is (finally) bringing back the Aero glass effect from the Windows Vista and 7 era, but with a few changes. It’s now known as ‘Acrylic’ instead and is now a component for app developers to use within their apps.

That’s notable – it was possible for developers to jump through a few hoops and “hack in” the Aero glass into their apps, but it was never easy. Acrylic, instead, is meant to be used by app developers and is therefore built for that.

There appear to be three different components to Acrylic: Side-Nav Acrylic, Background Acrylic, and In-App Acrylic. The screenshot below is an example of the first – the sidebar, as you can see, features a smooth blur.

The Conscious

Acrylic isn’t all – there’s more; back in the era of Windows 7 when Zune was still around and kicking, the first vestiges of Microsoft’s Modern Design Language were being born.

Zune started this whole design revolution; even today we can notice quite a few similarities between Zune’s interface and MDL2.

Project NEON is bringing back something from that era – smooth animations. Microsoft is calling this Conscious UI and Connected Animations.

The idea is to connect elements of the interface; connecting the animations for multiple elements, and building an interface that is conscious of its surroundings.

Acrylic is a part of this – the blur adopts the color of what’s behind it; the animations interact with each other, and they do so at a smooth 60 frames per second.

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The 3D, Holo, and Consistency

Windows Holographic is a big part of the upcoming Creators Update; Project NEON isn’t going to be in Creators Update, but it needs to accommodate for Windows Holographic as well.

This is a big part of what Project NEON is trying to accomplish: Windows 10, as we have said earlier, suffers from gross inconsistencies. A part of Windows 10 is still using the same design elements that Windows 7 used, while other parts are using MDL2.

Windows 10 is a mess, to say the least; Project NEON is an attempt at fixing this. Windows Holographic is going to be part of the expanded Windows experience; Project NEON needs to bring its consistent design language to every Windows experience.

This brings a challenge: Project NEON elements need to be designed for a traditional interface, as well as a virtual one.

A Concept

The screenshots look quite convincing; at the end of the day, however, these are merely mock-ups. Concepts, that might see a lot changed when they are implemented into the Windows Core.

The first bits of Project NEON are expected with Redstone 3 – that’s sometime late 2017. There’s a year of work to be done, and a lot can change.

Hopefully, the Windows Insiders will get their sneak peak once we are a bit closer to something real.

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